BigWorld and IBM: Large-scale testing for online games

Published on 27-Oct-2005

Customer:
BigWorld

Industry:
Media & Entertainment

Deployment country:
Australia

Solution:
Collaborative Innovation, Deep Computing, Digital Media, IT/infrastructure

Overview

BigWorld Pty, Ltd, of Sydney, Australia, is emerging as a leading provider of the middleware platform on which Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) run. In existence for seven years, the company has won numerous awards and has been named one of the Top 100 Asian Tech Businesses for 2005 by Red Herring magazine.

Business need:
To provide a large test facility for developers of massively multiplayer online games that can validate game performance with hundreds of thousands of concurrent users.

Solution:
The IBM Deep Computing Capacity On Demand facility – linked to BigWorld via a VPN – provided a large cluster of servers to validate the concept of third-party game testing.

Benefits:
BigWorld did not need to acquire hardware to perform the tests. Fast turnaround at the IBM facility maximized cost-effectiveness. The IBM solution can be offered to BigWorld’s customers as a value-added service, enabling them to test games before investing in IT infrastructure. Why IBM? IBM has extensive experience in highly scalable, on demand computing solutions, and was able to provide the cluster of over 100 high-performance servers that BigWorld needed, when they were required.

Case Study

    “The on demand nature of the testing facility was of great benefit...there was no wasted time or effort getting every-thing to work.”
    – Robert Spencer, Strategic Business Manager, BigWorld

Millions of game players, all at once.
The biggest trend in the video game industry is massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs), with hundreds of virtual worlds being accessed by millions of game players around the world, around the clock. BigWorld Pty, Ltd, of Sydney, Australia, is emerging as a leading provider of the middleware platform on which these games run. In existence for seven years, the company has won numerous awards and has been named one of the Top 100 Asian Tech Businesses for 2005 by Red Herring magazine.

“In the past, most MMOGs ran on platforms that were created by the game designers,” says Robert Spencer, Business Strategy Manager for BigWorld. “But there have been problems of reliability and scalability. That’s where we come in...Our offering, the BigWorld Technology Suite, is a universal platform that is highly scalable, very fault tolerant and able to handle hundreds of thousands, even millions, of concurrent users. This level of robust scalability and fault tolerance is something new in the industry.”


Proving the concept
With a number of BigWorld-based MMOGs launching into the market, BigWorld saw the need to offer its customers the capability to conduct critical large-scale capacity tests during the game development cycle. “Our licensees have to test their game technically but also against real-world human behavior,” Spencer says. “Not only does their game have to run cleanly and smoothly but it needs to be fun. Flocking events are a good example, as we can technically handle very large player densities but the game design should also balance the game so that all the players are having fun, understand what is happening around them and have options. The game’s ability to handle these sorts of scenarios in a fun manner isn’t necessarily predictable, so they need to actually try it.” This testing provides vital assurance that game code will work as expected once large numbers of concurrent users start playing in the game’s virtual world.

BigWorld selected IBM to provide the infrastructure needed for the testing capability. “We were very impressed with IBM’s experience in this area,” Spencer says. “We liked the concept of the Deep Computing Capacity On Demand facility; we’d be able to link up to them from Sydney via a virtual private network, and run our tests on the latest machines...without having to pay for anything other than the time we’re using them.”

For the proof-of-concept tests, IBM Developer Relations in Sydney worked with BigWorld to ensure that the agreed software stack of Linux® and BigWorld Server would run well on the 110-machine IBM ® xSeries® cluster that was used. The supercomputing team from IBM familiarized BigWorld with the IBM Cluster Systems Management tools that would enable quick remote installation and management of the software stack.

“The on demand nature of the testing facility was of great benefit,” says Spencer. “It was very impressive. From the moment we linked up with the facility, the entire cluster was up and running in only an hour. There was no wasted time or effort getting everything to work.”

    Why IBM?

    IBM has extensive experience in highly scalable, on demand computing solutions, and was able to provide the cluster of over 100 high-performance servers that BigWorld needed, when they were required.



An ongoing relationship
BigWorld has recently joined the vast network of IBM Business Partners and offers the joint testing procedure to its customers as a way to generate additional value. “This will let our licensees comprehensively validate the game design alpha, before they actually have to invest in a large amount of computing capacity,” says Spencer. “It helps them not only improve ROI, but also reduce risk. That’s something that online game companies haven’t really been able to do before.” The initial tests simulated a number of BigWorld-scripted operational scenarios with up to 100,000 concurrent virtual users per shard; they can readily be scaled up and down as needed, according to customer requirements.

“IBM has been fantastic to work with,” Spencer concludes. “Even though it’s early going, we’re already emerging as a leading player in this industry. We’re confident that our customers will appreciate the value that IBM adds to what we offer.”

For more information
To learn more about how IBM can help your company optimize its IT investments by leveraging IBM On Demand Games solutions, please contact your IBM representative, or visit us at:
ibm.com/solutions/games

To learn more about BigWorld, visit: bigworldtech.com

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Hardware:
System x

Service:
IBM Storage Services

Legal Information

©Copyright IBM Corporation 2005 IBM Corporation 1133 Westchester Avenue White Plains, NY 10604 U.S.A. Produced in the United States of America10-05 All Rights Reserved IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, the On Demand Business logo, the eServer logo and xSeries are trademarks or registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. Linux is a trademark of Linus Torvalds in the United States, other countries, or both. Other company, product, or service names may be trademarks or service marks of others. Many factors contributed to the results and benefits achieved by the IBM customer described in this document. IBM does not guarantee comparable results.